Farmer, James Leonard, Jr.

Farmer, James Leonard, Jr.,

1920–99, African-American civil-rights leader who was one of the principal civil-rights figures of the 1950s and 60s, b. Marshall, Tex., grad. Wiley College (B.S. 1938), Howard Univ. (B.D. 1941). Early in life he was a union organizer and a program director for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored PeopleNational Association for the Advancement of Colored People
(NAACP), organization composed mainly of American blacks, but with many white members, whose goal is the end of racial discrimination and segregation.
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 (NAACP). In 1942 he was a founder of the Congress of Racial EqualityCongress of Racial Equality
(CORE), civil-rights organization founded (1942) in Chicago by James Farmer. Dedicated to the use of nonviolent direct action, CORE initially sought to promote better race relations and end racial discrimination in the United States.
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 (CORE), one of the most important activist organizations dedicated to African-American civil rights. He was its chairman in the 1940s and later its director (1961–66). Devoted to Gandhian nonviolence, Farmer organized lunch-counter sit-ins, Freedom Rides (see Freedom RidersFreedom Riders,
American civil-rights demonstrators who engaged (1961) in nonviolent protests against segregation of public interstate buses and terminals in the South. From the 1940s several federal court decisions and an Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) order had ruled
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), and other civil-disobedience actions. Frequently risking his life, he was beaten and jailed. Resigning from CORE in 1966, Farmer taught college, ran (1968) unsuccessfully for national office, and was assistant director (1969–70) of the Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare. He later ran an educational think tank, was director of an association of public-employee unions, and taught history (1985–98) at Mary Washington College. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998.


See his Freedom—When? (1965) and Lay Bear the Heart: An Autobiography of the Civil Rights Movement (1985).

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